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Saturday, July 26

I have just seen one of the most enthralling theatre performances I've ever seen. I'm not sure whether it was my mood or the execution of the show (West Side Story) but I was lifted clear off my seat at certain points (metaphorically as it were). Over the last year, I've been involved in four amateur theatre productions - perhaps being behind the scenes gives you more insight into the show and, consequently, a greater ability to find its flaws. Perhaps being behind the scenes also gives you enough distance from the action not to become immersed and, thus, remain objective. However, all I know is that sitting in the second row of the stalls when the overture of West Side Story started was a singularly amazing experience for me, whatever the reason behind it.

I could tell you the faults I noticed in the Gala Stage School production, but I won't. It is not necessary. I enjoyed the show thoroughly - a show which felt extremely up to date, despite coming up to its fiftieth birthday in the next few years. I enjoyed many of the individual performances, but the set-pieces were phenomenal. The dancing scenes (best dancers at the front) were more captivating than many I've seen on the professional stage. For me, the urge to pay to see the evening show, after coming out the matinee, was strong enough to justify my feeling that I'd witnessed something amazing. Indeed, the feeling of excitement I got, seeing the scene change from Maria's dress to the Dance at the Gym was something that I wish I could repeat. Plus I quite enjoyed the look of amusement on the faces of the band (it's nice being able to watch a 26 piece orchestra closely) as they had to shout "Mambo" during their playing of the dance music in the overture.

Live theatre is, for me, fuelled by an excitement of it being literally happening in the same room as you. An show with the status of West Side Story could easily be done badly, because it's so well known, people's expectations are for a replay of the film or sountrack that they've seen or heard a thousand times. But the magic occurs when the delivery of the show exceeds the expectations, where the audience member (or indeed cast member) has to remind themselves that, for that one fleeting moment, it's really happening in front of them.

I think that's why I like performing. I don't care too much about audience applause or backslapping, but living the dream - being involved in creating the sparkling moment that can evoke a reaction in the spectator - that's pretty amazing. As a performer, feeling for one moment that you've stepped into the world of the show and you're really not on a stage in a theatre, but in the location of the fantasy you're creating, well, that's a remarkable feeling. Can someone remind me why I haven't been doing this all my life, please?!


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